Turner Lets Agencies Set the Pick

With the new National Basketball Association season just getting under way, Turner Sports is selling a newly expanded package of multiplatform NBA games and content this season and pitching it as the optimum vehicle for reaching young men. A new print campaign and face-to-face meetings with major shops are on the agenda in the coming weeks to ensure the agency community gets the message.

Advertisers on board so far include Hyundai, Autotrader.com, T-Mobile, Gatorade and Sprite. According to Jon Diament, evp, Turner Sports Ad Sales and Marketing, the company is pacing ahead of last season with sales so far, as the recession has eased a bit and top-tier sports properties remain in demand. He declined to discuss pricing, but sources familiar with some deals said Turner was commanding single-digit percentage increases over last season and in some cases high-single digit gains. The company has a good ratings story to tell, with record ratings for the playoffs last season and a 38 percent jump in ratings (for men 18-34) for the first game of the new season.

The media company’s offering of NBA-related properties spans TV, online and mobile and includes a weekly exclusive Thursday night game on TNT, a post-game wrap-up show, TNT OT, NBA.com, Yahoo Sports-NBA and NBA Mobile, as well as subscription packages League Pass and League Pass Broadband. It’s also pushing branded-integration opportunities, such as the T-Mobile Halftime Report and the Autotrader.com Tip-Off Show.

In addition, Turner sells inventory for NBA TV, the league-focused cable channel that will feature a lineup of 100 regular and post-season telecasts this season. NBA TV has roughly doubled its potential household-viewing universe in the past year to 45 million homes, according to Turner.

“More and more advertisers want an integrated solution,” said Diament. As consumers increasingly interact with content across multiple channels, marketers are making efforts to place their messages on those channels as well. “Fans are increasingly obtaining their content that way,” Diament said. “They’ll watch a live game, then go online to play fantasy sports and rely on mobile for breaking news.”

While Turner is placing more emphasis on the multiple-platform NBA package this year — across the regular season, NBA All-Star Weekend and the playoffs — advertisers can also cherry pick from the menu of channels and exposure windows to customize campaigns to fit particular needs. That’s the main point of a new print campaign that launches in industry trade magazines (including this one) this week. The ad features players fighting for a ball on the court overlaid by a giant clipboard inviting advertisers to make their own “amazing” game plan.

Andy Donchin, evp, director of media investments, Carat USA, says Turner’s effort to market its NBA assets in an integrated fashion has some appeal to clients. Cross-platform strategies, he said, “help to reinforce the commercial message.” And, for the right client, the NBA is appealing because “it attracts a younger male audience, and quite honestly that’s not everywhere in television.” The league itself, he noted, also has some compelling story lines this season, such as the Shaquille O’Neal trade to Cleveland and the comeback of the Boston Celtics.